Skip to main content
Year
1934
Month Day
June 18

Indian Reorganization Act is signed into law

In a major reversal of federal policy toward Native Americans, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the Indian Reorganization Act into law on June 18, 1934. Also known as the IRA, the Indian New Deal and the Wheeler-Howard Act, the act granted a new degree of autonomy to Native Americans in the United States, giving them greater control over their lands and allowing them to form legally recognized tribal governments.

In the early 1900s, federal policy toward Native Americans had promoted assimilation, pressuring tribes to leave reservations, move to cities and give up their traditional ways of life. After World War I, in gratitude toward Native Americans who had served in the military, Congress commissioned a study of conditions on Indian reservations across the U.S. The resulting report detailed the impoverished and unhealthy conditions in which many American Indians lived, finding a “vicious circle” in which economic opportunities were rare.

Elected in 1932 on a mandate to overhaul the Depression-ravaged American economy, FDR appointed John Collier, one of the founders of the American Indian Defense Association, to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1933. A staunch opponent of assimilation, Collier was the driving force behind the IRA. Importantly, the IRA reversed the allotment policy, which was aimed at breaking up communal lands into a patchwork of privately-owned plots. The IRA made it easier for tribes to hold communal lands and purchase land back, although the effects of allotment can still be seen on reservations today. 

The IRA also established a framework for tribes to draw up and ratify their own constitutions, which were recognized by the federal government. Many of these constitutions now serve as the law of the land in Indian territory. The IRA also directed badly-needed funds to services like healthcare and education on Indian reservations. Though many now believe that the IRA failed to improve economic conditions for Native Americans, it laid the groundwork for the current model of tribal sovereignty and paved the way for the full rollback of federal assimilation policies.

READ MORE: Native American History Timeline

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history. The Corsica-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French ...read more

Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space

On June 18, 1983,  the space shuttle Challenger is launched into space on its second mission. On board the shuttle is Dr. Sally K. Ride, who as a mission specialist, becomes the first American woman to travel into space.  Ride, who had earlier pursued a professional tennis ...read more

War of 1812 begins

June 18, 1812: The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law—and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in ...read more

Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich

On June 18, 1940, Benito Mussolini arrives in Munich with his foreign minister, Count Ciano, to discuss immediate plans with the Fuhrer, and doesn’t like what he hears. Embarrassed over the late entry of Italy in the war against the Allies, and its rather tepid performance since, ...read more

Arnold Palmer wins U.S. Open

On June 18, 1960, Arnold Palmer shoots a 65 to win the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado.  Palmer, from Ligonier, Pennsylvania was the son of a golf pro at the Latrobe Country Club in nearby Latrobe. His father taught him the game during the club’s off ...read more

President John Adams oversees passage of first of Alien and Sedition Acts

President John Adams oversees the passage of the Naturalization Act, the first of four pieces of controversial legislation known together as the Alien and Sedition Acts, on June 18, 1798. Strong political opposition to these acts succeeded in undermining the Adams administration, ...read more

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) performs onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967 in Monterey, California.

The Monterey Pop Festival reaches its climax

By the time they got to Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Who and the Grateful Dead were established superstars—heroes to the roughly half a million worshipful fans who trekked up to Max Yasgur’s farm to see them in the summer of 1969. Yet just two years earlier, they ...read more

Jet crashes after takeoff at Heathrow, killing 118 people

On June 18, 1972, a Trident jetliner crashes after takeoff from Heathrow Airport in London, killing 118 people. The official cause of this accident remains unknown, but it may have happened simply because the plane was carrying too much weight. As the summer of 1972 approached, ...read more

A radio host is gunned down for his controversial views

Talk radio host Alan Berg is gunned down and killed instantly in the driveway of his home in Denver, Colorado, on June 18, 1984. The 50-year-old host, whose show on the station KOA gained a strong following in the early 1980s, stirred up controversy with his outspoken personality ...read more

Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT-II nuclear treaty

During a summit meeting in Vienna, President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT-II agreement dealing with limitations and guidelines for nuclear weapons. The treaty, which never formally went into effect, proved to be one of the most controversial ...read more

British abandon Philadelphia

On June 18, 1778, after almost nine months of occupation, 15,000 British troops under General Sir Henry Clinton evacuate Philadelphia, the former U.S. capital. The British had captured Philadelphia on September 26, 1777, following General George Washington’s defeats at the Battle ...read more